Here is a glimpse of how members of Congress travel on your dime.
Besides rooms for sleeping, the 12 members of the House of Representatives rented their hotel’s fireplace-equipped presidential suite and two adjacent rooms. The hotel cleared out the beds and in their place set up a bar, a snack room and office space. The three extra rooms — stocked with liquor, Coors beer, chips and salsa, sandwiches, Mrs. Fields cookies and York Peppermint Patties — cost a total of about $1,500 a night. They were rented for five nights.
While in Scotland, the House members toured historic buildings. Some shopped for Scotch whisky and visited the hotel spa. They capped the trip with a dinner at one of the region’s finest restaurants, paid for by the legislators, who got $118 daily stipends for meals and incidentals.
The tour provides a glimpse of the mixture of business and pleasure involved in legislators’ overseas trips, which are growing in number and mostly financed by the taxpayer. Lawmakers travel with military liaisons who carry luggage, help them through customs, escort them on sightseeing trips and stock their hotel rooms with food and liquor. Typically, spouses come along, flying free on jets operated by the Air Force. Legislative aides come too. On the ground, all travel in chauffeured vehicles.
The cost they reported for such travel abroad was $13 million in 2008, a 70% jump from 2005, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records. Lawmakers don’t have to report the cost of domestic travel when the government pays. The $13 million didn’t include the expense of flying on Air Force planes, which lawmakers don’t have to disclose.